The parent autism community is buzzing with excitement over a ruling by a British judge clearing Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s colleague and co-author of all charges against him that arose from a study of the relationship between gut disease, autism, and the MMR vaccine.
Judge John Mitting’s conclusion, from an appeal by the highly respected pediatric gastroenterologist Prof. John Walker-Smith, stated:
- “…both on general issues and the Lancet paper and in relation to individual children, the panel’s overall conclusion that Professor Walker-Smith was guilty of serious professional misconduct was flawed…The panel’s determination cannot stand. I therefore quash it.”
Professor Walker-Smith was Andrew Wakefield’s co-author on a highly controversial study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998. Most of the controversy stemmed from the reporting by the co-authors that many of the parents in the study claimed that their children regressed into autism after receiving the MMR vaccine.
For parents of children with autism, this whole mess has always been a bit of a head-scratcher. The Lancet study’s conclusion that children with autism suffer from bowel disease is something any autism parent could easily confirm, and MMR, by far, has been the vaccine most commonly cited by parents as a trigger for a regression into autism. In my travels, I have heard the same story from parents about MMR leading to regression thousands of times.
In Britain, The General Medical Council is in charge of licensing and regulating doctors. Their 2010 “trial” of Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues was the longest in GMC history, lasting 217 days, and concluded by revoking the medical licenses of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Prof Walker-Smith. At the time, Dr. Wakefield spoke of the injustice that Judge Mitting has now confirmed:
“It seemed to me that they had come to this decision a long time ago, long before the evidence was fairly heard. This is the way the system deals with dissent. You isolate, discredit and provide an example to other doctors and scientists not to get involved in this kind of thing. That is examining questions of vaccine safety.”
Now what? If the foundation of the proof that the MMR does not trigger autism is crumbling, what in the world are parents supposed to believe? If Professor Walker-Smith is not guilty on all charges, will Dr. Wakefield be next? The Canary Party’s press release explains:
- “While John Walker-Smith received funding to appeal the GMC decision from his insurance carrier, his co-author Andrew Wakefield did not — and was therefore unable to mount an appeal in the high court. This year, however, Dr. Wakefield, who now conducts his research in the US, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee and the British Medical Journal for falsely accusing him of ‘fraud.’ The suit is currently underway in Texas, where Wakefield now lives.”
I think I’m really happy today–it’s great to see justice finally served. At the same time, have parents been given false information? Are decisions being made by parents based on headlines that may prove inaccurate? Is it possible vaccines are in fact dangerous for our most fragile kids?
If Dr. Wakefield and Prof. Walker-Smith have been found not guilty, who are the guilty parties? Mark Blaxill, chairman of the Canary Party, offers up his thoughts:
- “Though justice has finally prevailed for Prof. Walker-Smith, the damage done to him and his colleagues has been incalculable. The UK government must investigate the corruption in the GMC, which has severely damaged the reputations of good, honest doctors. Most of all, it’s outrageous that Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been vilified by government officials, vaccine manufacturers and physician organizations, and that the media has accepted these unfounded accusations uncritically.”
I don’t know the answers to all these questions. Unfortunately, the GMC’s decision to turn Dr. Wakefield and Prof. Walker-Smith’s paper into a three-ring circus has put a chill on research into all the possible environmental causes of autism. Will this finally open the floodgates?
We need answers, and we need them now. Millions of children remain at risk. For one day, at least, it feels like some justice has been served.